Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
God is love. Over and over again the bible tells that to us in both the Old and the New Testaments. The very first words in the bible are all about the Garden of Eden and God’s desire to “walk with,” be close to, Adam and Eve in that garden.
Love seeks union and closeness with the beloved. It is unconquerable. Even after Adam and Eve sinned against God’s love He came right back and promised their descendents would have eventual reunion. Throughout the history of the Old Testament He presented Himself to their descendents as a Good Shepherd, a caring God who would never abandon them. He could have condemned Adam and Eve. He could have condemned all who sinned against His love, but He didn’t.
From His throne in heaven He could have issued a decree that in one instant would have absolved every one of us from all our sins, past, present, and future. But He didn’t. Instead He came to us, personally came to us in Jesus Christ. He did that not simply to forgive us our sins but to be close to us once again, closer even than He was with Adam and Eve. That’s what Holy Communion is all about. He becomes human body and blood in order to be intimate with us once again, intimate at an unimaginable level.
Our first experience of love comes in the moments just after we are born, those moments when we are cradled and nursed in the arms of our mothers. From those moments forward our lives and behaviors are shaped by love or misshaped by the absence of love. The experience of rejection has devastating effects that are seen in how we relate to others while the experience of giving and receiving love produces wonderful results throughout all of our lives. Obviously the importance of love in determining who we are cannot be overstated.
So also is the importance of love in our understanding of and in our relationship with God. The fact that God Himself is Love and that He made us both to receive His love and to love Him in return is of the utmost importance. The question of what kind of a god God is and how we answer that question governs our lives to an extent that is of supreme importance. Truly our lives here on earth and our lives after death revolve around love and our experience or non-experience of love.
If what I have just said is true then it would be necessary that God would present Himself to us in our humanity. To love us inhumanly simply wouldn’t work at all and so God has given Himself to us in our humanity. That is what today’s Mass is all about, God’s gift of Himself to us in His human Body and Blood.
When you stop and think about it, lovers have within them a drive to give themselves to those they love. One of the great longings of a person in love is to give themselves, to give their hearts and souls, to the ones they love. This is a main characteristic of God. He is a self-giving God, a self-emptying God that comes to us in powerlessness and vulnerability. He was born of our Blessed Mother in total vulnerability, powerlessly cradled in her arms. When He died on His Cross in total vulnerability and powerlessness His body was placed in the arms of His mother. When we marry we give ourselves to our spouses as gifts without strings attached with no conditions. Our marital gifts of ourselves are total and unconditional.
Love and faith are two sides of the same coin. When you give yourself to another in love you are making an act of faith in them. You believe that they will cherish and protect your gift of self. In the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ God presents himself to us so that we can be united with Him. The experience of giving and receiving God’s love produces wonderful results throughout all of our lives. Obviously the importance of God’s love in determining who we are cannot be overstated.
St. John’s gospel highlights the importance of God’s love. The very first miracle of Jesus took place at a wedding, in Cana, when at the request of His mother he changed water into wine. At the beginning of his gospel St. John tells us:
On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
At the end of His life when His hour did come, we find Jesus at the Last Supper miraculously changing wine into His Body and Blood. St. John, the book of Revelation, refers to that event as “The wedding feast of the Lamb.” In St. John’s mind the two wedding feasts mark the beginning and then the end of Jesus’ life among us as our Savior. The wedding feast at Cana foreshadows God’s marriage to us in the new and everlasting covenant given to us at the Last Supper, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, in the Body and Blood of God the Son, God made man in Jesus Christ.
The fact that it is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus is of supreme importance. The fact that you receive the true Body and the true Blood of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion is likewise of supreme importance because in receiving it you and I are receiving the permanent and irrevocable gift of God himself to you, not in a merely symbolic gesture but in actual fact.
There are those who deny that the Holy Communion we receive at Mass is truly and really the Body and Blood of Christ. In their denial they are divorcing themselves from the stupendous gift of Jesus to us. What a terrible loss they are inflicting on themselves. How sad that is.
Today’s Solemnity of The Body and Blood of Christ follows the Solemnities of Easter, the Ascension, Pentecost, and the Holy Trinity. It’s placement at the conclusion of the sequence of those solemnities show us its importance.
With hearts filled with gratitude and wonder, let’s you and I now receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ with hearts filled with love, love for the God who has married himself to us and promised to be with us forever.